Steelhead in the Columbia River Basin are threatened. Current populations have dwindled to a fraction of the historic numbers a century ago. That has led two Northwest Indian Tribes to try something new to help this struggling fish survive. Both tribes are learning from each other along the way.
The snow is almost gone in north Idaho. But it’s still cold, almost freezing on this early morning at the Dworshak National Fish Hatchery near Orofino.
Environmentalists, farmers and irrigators could play a bigger role in creating long term management policies for Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead. The government has asked two university programs in Oregon and Washington to act as mediators over the next six months, talking with more than 200 organizations, states and tribes in order to find a better way of managing fish.
Environmentalists, irrigators, and other stakeholders in the Northwest are being offered an expanded role in shaping the long-term recovery plan for salmon and steelhead in the Columbia Basin.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries is the federal agency in charge of salmon recovery in the Columbia and Snake rivers. The agency Tuesday sent letters to hundreds of stakeholders in the Northwest. It invites them to provide input on the plan it is working on to restore salmon and steelhead populations.
The Northwest’s declining salmon runs have spurred marathon legal battles and inspired billions in spending to save the iconic species.
But Idaho’s coho salmon were never listed as endangered before they went extinct in 1987. Few people noticed when the fish were gone. But the Nez Perce Indian tribe did. And thanks to its extraordinary efforts, coho are once again returning by the thousands to Idaho waters.